by Michael R. Allen
Don De Vivo took these photographs of this St. Louis block in 1998, capturing conditions that have only worsened in the course of seven years. This block is part of a long commercial corridor on Martin Luther King Boulevard that straddles the cities of St. Louis and Wellston, an industrial suburb experiencing severe economic depression. De Vivo, a developer and real estate broker who owns six properties on this block, has been working to stabilize the physical conditions here and renovate his buildings since 1986, when he made his first purchase in the Wellston Loop area. Recently, De Vivo and others formed a nonprofit development corporation, the Wellston Loop Community Development Corporation, to jump-start redevelopment of the commercial district on Martin Luther King Boulevard in the Wellston Loop.
Note that the large commercial building seen recently burned in February remains partly standing in October. This building is adjacent to a former branch of the J.C. Penney store, built in 1948 as a rare example of a well-defined International Style building in a neighborhood commercial district. The J.C. Penney store building still stands, although it has been ravaged by years of abandonment.
Photographs from February 2, 1998
Photographs from October 8, 1998